Thanks for printing the Jan. 11 commentaries by Ross Douthat (“Comprehending satire”) and Stephen Carter (“Comprehending terror”). Both pieces are quite trenchant in their support of free speech.

Many people believe that it is only terrorists with whom we are at war. Similarly, many believe that it is only people who print cartoons that are disrespectful of Mohammed or books like Salmon Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” who are in danger. I share French Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ opinion that we are in a war against “radical Islam.” (“France declares ‘war’ in terror response,” Jan. 11).

The goal of radical Islamists is to establish an Islamic state. Wherever ISIL is in control, everyone must convert to Islam and submit to sharia law or be killed. Thousands of people have been killed and more than 800,000 people had been forced to flee their homes as of June 2014.

It is hard for us, in our pluralistic society, to imagine a society where one is not free to have one’s own opinions and to express them freely. We accept that there are many different people in the United States, with many different religious viewpoints, including atheism and agnosticism.

But that is not the way it is in a society controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.

We need to refuse to accept any restrictions on our free speech. They will only lead to demands for further restrictions.

James Brandt, New Brighton


Credit-card story? Horrible! (Or not.)

In regard to the misuse of credit cards by employees of the Minneapolis public schools: OMG. It is unfathomable that employees engaged in behavior that most middle-school students know is wrong (Jan. 11). Use a district credit card for groceries or a non-district-related meal or personal items at Target? The district might as well take bushels of tax dollars and set them on fire in the middle of the street.

Surely these employees know that this behavior undermines the district’s many positive accomplishments, in the view of taxpayers. It probably doesn’t improve views of other school districts, either.

Because those who engaged in this behavior are likely higher up in the administration, it’s also likely their punishment will be limited to repaying the money they spent inappropriately. And the next time the district requests more funding? Yikes!

Michael Harwell, Forest Lake

• • •

“MPS credit card users violate rules” was the headline of the front-page story showing an unflattering photo of Minneapolis schools CEO Michael Goar, insinuating that he and others were somehow using district funds for personal gain. Fortunately, I carefully read the article.

So what were these funds squandered on? Trips to the Caymans? No, the CEO, over a six-month span, made two unauthorized office supply purchases (scandalous!) and picked up the tab at a few business meetings. (Really, a CEO? Who does he think he is?)

And outgoing Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson — now there’s an easy target! She spent $31 per month in unauthorized food purchases over a six-month period! Thank goodness the Star Tribune investigated this!

There is no story here. At major corporations, expense reports sometimes come in without receipts, and there are always efforts to remedy that. Executives or managers may knowingly or unknowingly buy from an unauthorized vendor to expedite an otherwise tedious internal process. Policies are never perfect and can always be updated to better reflect the dynamic and changing landscape of business.

Denny Bennett, Minneapolis



If it’s hard now, imagine PolyMet

The Jan. 11 article describing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s struggle to get the state to force Minntac and U.S. Steel to comply with federal clean-water laws regarding the Minntac wastewater tailings pit should be instructive (“EPA warns state on mine pit oversight”). We see a corporate giant criticizing the science, denying the environmental damage already done, downplaying the risk of future damage, stalling at every opportunity and claiming that more protective restrictions would be a significant hardship to the company. Meanwhile, state officials are lobbied extensively by special-interest groups and fail to act decisively because of the uncomfortable trade-offs of jobs vs. clean water.

Fast-forward 20 years, and imagine what we would be facing with a PolyMet copper-nickel mine with even higher concentration sulfide-bearing ore threatening several watersheds, including the BWCA. And PolyMet is not even a U.S. company. Can we expect that it will willingly comply with U.S. regulations, and in a timely manner? No company doing this kind of mining anywhere in the world has managed to do it without causing significant and lasting damage to the environment. And most of these companies have failed to take responsibility, leaving taxpayers holding the bag. And can we expect that 20 years from now jobs won’t be an issue, and can we expect less lobbying by special-interest groups?

Steve Broste, Champlin



Pretty unknowable. So, dynamic scoring?

I strongly agree with D.J. Tice when he writes (Jan. 11) that “[w]hat is true in economic affairs is naturally true elsewhere. In social trends, say, or international relations, or politics, we simply don’t see what’s coming — and neither do those who claim to.” With that in mind, I don’t understand why dynamic scoring of congressional bills makes any sense, particularly if we are trying to predict 10 years into the future.

Mike Ring, Minneapolis



Sure, it looks dire — to an ideologue

Arthur Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a “think tank” funded by the wealthiest conservatives in the United States. The AEI vehemently opposes health care for all, unemployment benefits, support for public education, Social Security and work benefits such as extensive vacations and maternity leave.

Thus it is not surprising that Brooks would pen this cautionary tale about the evils of life in Europe, where all these things opposed by the AEI exist and enhance the life of the citizenry (“Europe: Frail, crotchety, insular,” Jan. 11). Consider the source.

William O. Beeman, Minneapolis